Pharmaceutical Behemoths Blasted for Near-Drowning Tests on Animals

PETA Calls for End to Cruel, Scientifically Worthless 'Forced Swim Tests' That Induce Panic and Terror

For Immediate Release:
November 9, 2018

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

ChicagoPETA has sent letters urging four major pharmaceutical companies—AbbVie (formerly part of Abbott Laboratories), Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Company, and Pfizer, Inc.—to end their use of the forced swim test, in which mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils are placed in inescapable beakers filled with water and forced to swim in order to keep from drowning. Some claim that mice who spend more time floating are “depressed.” But the test has been heavily criticized by scientists who argue that floating is not a sign of despair but rather a positive sign of learning, conserving energy, and adapting to a new environment. Watch this video of the test.

AbbVie (or Abbott Laboratories), Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Company, and Pfizer, Inc. combined have subjected at least 5,461 mice; 1,066 rats; 748 gerbils; and 305 guinea pigs to the cruel forced swim test in the past 30 years—as documented in 45 published papers and 16 patent applications. PETA scientists identified 47 compounds that were tested on animals and found that even though 36 of them appeared to have antidepressant characteristics using the test, none is currently approved to treat human depression.

“Humans need treatments for mood disorders, but the pharmaceutical companies’ own data show that they have a better chance of choosing the right drug with a coin toss than by dropping mice in beakers of water,” says PETA neuroscientist Dr. Emily Trunnell. “Forcing frantic animals to swim for fear of drowning is both physically and psychologically abusive and irrelevant to human depression.”

PETA’s letters to the pharmaceutical companies are available upon request. For more information, please visit

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind